A new genomic test will help Alpaca wool producers throughout the world with the difficult task of breeding healthy alpacas with 'classic grey' coats which in the past has required as much luck as breeding know-how.
This is set to change with the release of Neogen's Alpaca Coat Colour Test.
Belgian Huacaya breeder Laurence Varlet, from Alpagas du Maquis in Montleban, was the first commercial breeder to use the test to gain insight into the genetics behind her alpaca's coats.
Ms Varlet said the test would provide certainty when selecting animals for breeding.
"Until now it's been impossible to know prior to breeding if our lighter coloured animals carry grey genetics," she said.
"Sometimes you can be 99 per cent sure an animal with a light coat will produce healthy grey offspring so you breed them and then spring rolls around and you've got juvenile alpacas with different coloured coats.
"It is disappointing because you're back to square one and must wait another year to try again."
The test, which is completed by sending a few drops of the animal's blood to Neogen's laboratory in Gatton, QLD, has given producers a new level of confidence.
Waratah Alpaca Fibre Co-Op board member and one of the Coolawarra and Storybook Alpacas principles, Michael Williams, expects the test to provide incentive for Australian breeders to branch out into 'classic grey' wool.
"From a commercial producer's perspective, 'classic grey' wool has not been inviting because of the hit and miss nature of it," Mr Williams said.
"Most 'classic grey' fleeces will have a spot of a different colour, like a black spot or a rose grey swath on it.
"To export the wool, you need to fill a 10 tonne container.
"With scouring, that means between 11 and 12 tonnes is needed, which at the moment would take about 10 years.
"We are trying to get the quantity needed down to two tonnes.
"I read through the details and this test will help producers be more consistent.
"It has made us more interested in breeding greys.
"We have 10 grey females and an Appaloosa grey male to grow our flock.
"We are excited by the challenge of breeding quality greys."